coproduction and parent participation

Community Inclusion Session

In June 2022 we held some “How is Bolton Doing?” sessions for parents and carers to discuss their experiences of community inclusion for their SEND children and young people. By community inclusion, we are basically asking “what is there for your child or young person to do in Bolton?”
We were joined at the sessions by Tim Bryant, Commissioner from Bolton Council, Sine Hall, Manager of the Transitions team and Elaine Nuttall from Families Information Services.
The aim of these sessions was for parents experiences to feed directly into the PFA Community Inclusion Task Group and a current project they were working on to look at improving community inclusion opportunities.
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PFA Community Inclusion Task Group

This is a task group that is part of Bolton’s Preparting for Adulthood (PFA) Forum. The forum, chaired by Director of Children’s Services, Bernie Brown, was brought together in 2021 with the aim to improve all areas of “PFA” for children and young people with SEND.

The same areas are used across the country when PFA is being considered, and these are the areas that the PFA Forum centres it’s work around:

Employment – this also includes training, volunteering and having something meaningful to do.

Health  – mainitaining good health and transitioning to adult services.

Community Inclusion – being part of your local community, having a life out of school and home.

Independent Living – being able to live as independently as you can.

Sometimes these ‘cornerstones’ of PFA can feel insensitive for some families, but they should be read within the context of your own situation. No one is aiming for all children with SEND to become adults living independently and in paid employment. The aim is for all children to have a good pathway to adulthood that is in line with their needs.

What was the aim of the session?

As with all our How is Bolton Doing? sessions, we brought together parents and carers with local professionals, so that they could share their experiences directly with people who can make change.

The main topics to cover were:

  • Current activities and opportunities that children access.

  • How do you find out about things to do?

  • How have opportunities changed as your child gets older?

  • What is missing?

  • How can Bolton improve?

What was discussed?

As groups we looked at the opportunities that our children have been able to access since they were born, and compared these with what is available for children without any additional needs, and we looked at this across different age ranges.

What became very evident was that during the years before children start school, there are all sorts of opportunities available for parents to access with their children, and more often than not, it didn’t make a difference if your child have additional needs.

During the Primary School years, some of these opportunities started to ebb away, and sometimes the activities that were on offer were difficult to access independently for children with additional needs. Often, parents felt that possibly the staff running sessions may not be able to manage their child’s needs, or there weren’t appropriate facilities.

Once children started secondary school, something of a gaping hole is starting to appear, and parents were also struggling to manage work commitments as wrap-around childcare became non-existent.

By the time children were finishing school and entering the college phase, most young people required additional support to access universal opportunities, or needed to access targeted groups.

Parents and carers explained that it is very hard to find information about what is on offer, and quite often info they have found was out of date when they ade further enquiries; this seemed to be in part due to covid.

We also have an infographic being designed to illustrate the findings from this session.

What key points were taken away?

  • Information is key. The Local Offer needs to have more information about ‘What’s On’ with the information also detailing how well equipped a group is to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
  • Universal services/groups should be asked what is holding them back from accepting children and young people with SEND – maybe there could be training available to support them.
  • Special Schools need to take more interest in what their pupils are doing when they aren’t in school – do the parents know who their children are friendly with? Are there opportunities for parents to meet?
  • Maybe there are things out there that we just don’t know about.

What happens next?

All the feedback from the sessions was heard loud and clear, Tim Bryant in particular very much enjoyed meeting parents and being able to understand the struggles.

The PFA Community Inclusion Task group has now funded 2 local group, Breaking Barriers and Bolton Lads and Girls Club to do a ‘mapping exercise.’ 2 localities have been selected to start with – Farnworth and Rumworth and everything that is on offer is being mapped out. Groups and clubs are being interviewed to understand what they offer, and what are the barriers they face to being more inclusive. At the end of the project, we are hopeful that the mapping exercise will cover the rest of Bolton.

The PFA Community Inclusion Task group meets on a monthly basis and is attended by a representative from Bolton Parent Carers. 


Community Inclusion Seed Funding

As a result of the work of the Breaking Barriers and Bolton Lads and Girls Club with the mapping exercise, funding has been awarded to organisations to support the purchase of three different size sensory packs, additional equipment, and training to improve access to activities and services.

A panel meeting took place, with parent representatives, to decide on how the funding was distributed.

Click here to read about the projects that were awarded seed funding.


Community Mapping Project – update

As a result of the work of the Breaking Barriers and Bolton Lads and Girls Club with the mapping exercise, an interactive guide to what’s available in the localities of Farnworth and Rumworth has been produced by Bolton Together in conjunction with Bolton Lads and Girls Club and Breaking Barriers.

Click here to for the interactive booklet


What difference has parent participation made in this project?

Being able to bring parents and carers together with professionals to share their experiences brought to life the struggles faced by families with having things to do for their young people in the community. The project initially started by looking at young people’s access to their communities, by bringing the parent carer voice into the project, it was widen to a much wider age group as it became evident that community inclusion for young people must start with community inclusion for children.

Without the experience of meeting with families, we don’t believe the mapping project would have been developed and resourced,